Thanks to the joys of diabetes, I had a rotten night’s sleep last night – followed, as usual, by a corker of a hangover this morning. Not much to be done about it, other than to get ready for another Happy And Productive Day At Work (cough) at a more leisurely pace.
As a consequence, I found myself on a later bus than usual – this one was full of teenagers, because it passes the local 6th-form college.
I don’t have much to do with teenagers. My son is only two years away, and I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. At the moment his life revolves around Minecraft; and though this can grate after a while, at least he’s happy and enthusiastic about it. I am well aware that I’ll miss this innocent era when puberty kicks in.
The English language changes quickly, and many changes begin with teenagers. When listening to them, I tend to flip-flop between fascinated and appalled. Of everyone on the bus, there are two girls that have my attention because they’re talking the loudest. Neither of them could be any older than eighteen.
One girl is studying in hairdressing, and the other in child care. I know this because both are regulars on this bus and they’ve talked about it in the past. It has no bearing here, but I thought I’d mention it so you can get a more complete picture. I’d like to apologise for engaging in such a blatant stereotype – but if there’s one thing that this midlands-town is known for, it’s stereotypes. Turning airheaded teenagers into airheaded hairdressers and nursery nurses is a booming industry.
As the girls talk, I note that every sentence begins with “ohmahgod” and ends with “innit”. They’re using these words in the same way that radio-users use “roger” and “over”. They bookend each message. When you start with “ohmahgod” it means you’re about to say something important and the listener cannot interrupt. By terminating with “innit” you signal that your message is complete and the listener may now speak – as long as they too start with “ohmahgod”. And so on.
It’s quite a foolproof system, really. It’s just a shame the actual content of the communication is such horseshit.
One is telling the other about the guy she was with last night. She thinks this one might be a proper goer, because (and I quote): “Ohmahgod. His brother says that Kyle has never called a girl ‘bootiful’ or ‘babe’ before … none of the 29 other girls he’s had sex with. Innit.”
Twenty-nine. Bloody hell. And apparently she’ll probably see Kyle in college this morning, so he’s presumably still a teenager too.
It’s probably a sign that I’m getting older, when this sort of thing makes mes appalled rather than impressed. Ten or fifteen years ago I might – on hearing that figure – have stood on my desk and declared “Oh Captain, my captain!”. At the very least, I would have applauded his stamina.
But now I feel sorry for Kyle, and for teenagers in general. They’ve taken something that should be special, and made it so mundane and ordinary that it has really lost all value. Love, it seems, is an outdated concept. The person you stay with is the person who contributes to your first “accident”. It’s like russian roulette with a split condom.
I feel sorry for the embryonic-hairdresser, too. She wasn’t at all bothered by the number of notches on Kyle’s bedpost. Rather she felt flattered that he’d said nicer things to her than to the 29 before. She didn’t think of herself as “conquest number 30” – she just thought she was worth more than 29 others. I didn’t think it was particularly Jane Austen, but it seems that ’round these parts, calling someone “babe” is tantamount to a marriage proposal.
It makes me vow that when my daughter hits puberty, I’m going to track her every move by GPS, convince her that all boys are rapists, and insist on breathalysing her every time she comes home later than 7pm. I might even buy a gun. Remember, dads: shoot the first boy that comes sniffing around, and word will soon spread.
As the bus rolls towards town it passes other students walking towards the college. Everyone prepares to leave the bus, queueing down the centre aisle. Now stood by me and staring out of the windows, our very own Elinor Dashwood gasps to her friend: “Ohmahgod. There’s Nathan! You’re not going to tell him what I said, are you? He can’t know. Innit.”
Nathan, it seems, is her soon-to-be-replaced boyfriend. And for all we know, he’s a top-quality lad … but clearly needs to up his game. He hasn’t gone to the extraordinary lengths of memorising romantic poetry, like Kyle.
And as everyone on the bus tries to get a discrete look at Nathan (because everyone has been listening to this conversation for the last fifteen minutes) as they alight, I hear my own voice ask, loudly: “Why are you worried about Nathan when you’ve already told everyone on this bus?”
(Names have been left unchanged, because no self-respecting teenager reads this blog anyway.)